My last steps up the side of Masada were the hardest. Out of breath and slowing down, I looked up at the summit and in the heat and blazing sun of the Judean Desert, saw all my friends at the top who made it ahead of me, cheering me on. It was a remarkable moment for me -- an intersection of friendship, faith and health in a fitting coda to a challenging chapter of my life.
That story began a year-and-a-half earlier on a paddle tennis court in Highland Park. I quit early from my game because I was short of breath. Most who were there that day said I should drink water and take a rest, but my friend Robin insisted I see a doctor. It was wise advice, as two days later I was diagnosed with late-stage endometrial cancer. The shortness of breath was due to a large cancer-related blood clot in my lungs. I was hospitalized immediately, and a far too common medical journey began.
Most people reading this know firsthand that nobody can prepare you for that kind of news, but a lifetime of enduring friendships and faith made the journey life-changing. My friends have always been a vital part of my life, and I cherish long-term relationships with them. From the first diagnosis, they showed me a breathtaking amount of love and support, and I embraced all of it. Shortly after my treatment began, a number of doctor acquaintances mentioned, unprompted, that the very best outcomes usually are the result of a strong support system and a great attitude. My goodness I thought, if that was the case, I'm gonna be fine.
The outpouring of love and support from my family and friends was overwhelming. The meals prepared, the companionship, drop-ins for coffee, flowers, texts, emails, calls-I loved it and surrounded myself with all of it. Importantly, I had faith, and others did too. Several friends said Mi Shebeirach (a Jewish prayer for healing) for me weekly. All were working their healing prayers including my non-Jewish friends, some of whom formed prayer chains at church.
The course of treatment was extensive. Nine weeks of chemo, followed by surgery, a week in the hospital, followed by another nine weeks of chemo. Being in good health played an important role, but friends and continuing faith got me through the worst of it. Most importantly, I am in the care of a gifted oncologist-who is also a man of faith. He has healing hands and judgment, but typically credits the results to a higher power. We are on the same page.
Months after my last treatment, as health and normalcy returned to my life, my friend Robin and her husband organized a trip to Israel. My husband and I had always wanted to go to Israel; we had heard that JUF missions were an exquisite way to do it, and this trip would be with so many of our good friends who had contributed so much to my recent recovery.
For me personally, the intersection of faith, friendship, and the blessing of good health came together on the ascent of Masada. While I had exercised during my treatment, I had not exerted myself in an extended way like a mountain hike can demand. About a dozen of us chose to walk up rather than take the trolley.
While I was always bringing up the rear, my fellow Masada-climbing friends were with me every step -- listening, sharing, and empowering me. When they reached the summit, they were there cheering me on, just as they were there through the course of my treatment, encouraging me, having faith that I had the strength to climb.
Lynne Reisner, who lives in Highland Park and is a co-owner of a jewelry business, joined the JUF Couples Mission to Israel this winter. For more information about JUF Missions, contact Samantha Wolf at SamanthaWolf@juf.org or (312) 357-4692.